BOSTON (CBS) – Losing is a tough thing for any athlete to swallow. For a 13-year veteran on a young rebuilding team, that challenge becomes far greater.
That’s the spot Gerald Wallace is stuck in right now after being dealt from a contending Brooklyn squad to Boston this offseason, and he isn’t taking it very well. After the Celtics blew a 22-point second half deficit against a middling Bucks squad for their second straight defeat, Wallace had some harsh words for his teammates in the locker room.
“We got selfish,” Wallace explained about his team’s second half effort. “Instead of worrying about winning the ball game we were more worried about our stats and getting points. It showed. We went from a team that was together and moving and playing together in the first half to a team that was five individuals out on the court, everyone playing for themselves, and it showed on the defensive end.”
Why did it happen though?
“I don’t have a clue,” Wallace admitted. “You got to ask everybody in here. I don’t have a clue. I really don’t understand it. I’m trying to figure out what’s more important, winning or padding your stats. This was a game we were supposed to win easily, without even the starters playing in the fourth quarter. Instead, we got selfish as a team. We didn’t move the ball, we let the ball stick instead of pushing the ball, and their second unit came in and they handled us, and we didn’t really know what to do.”
This was the second time Wallace has called out his teammates since joining the Celtics. After a preseason loss against Minnesota on October 21st, the small forward took the unusual step of speaking out after an exhibition defeat.
“We’re not playing with effort,” Wallace told reporters in Minnesota, “Guys are out there being selfish. The opponent is giving it their all, regardless of how the night is going.”
While there is no doubt Wallace’s intentions are righteous, the newest Celtic is walking a fine line and the harsh criticism may be falling on deaf ears at this early stage of the season.
Boston is likely going to lose a lot this year, for a lot of reasons. There’s a new coach, plenty of new players, a new defensive scheme, and an overall lack of talent at key spots on the roster, especially with Rajon Rondo sidelined.
Wallace is doing his best to be a veteran leader, but he needs to choose his words wisely. He’s not going to be able to speak out like this after every single defeat during a 82-game campaign.
After a second half in which Boston shot a mere 21.2 percent from the field against the Bucks though, Wallace may have a just reason to send a message now. He wasn’t alone in voicing his frustration, and Jeff Green agreed that his teammates padding their own numbers was a problem.
“[Ignoring the numbers] the biggest thing right now,” Green explained. “That’s what we have to do. In order for us to take the next step to getting better, we’ve got to figure out ways to put egos aside, put your pride aside and just buy into what Coach Stevens wants. That’s the only way we can win.”
For right now, the response to the turmoil is what matters most. With a demanding schedule on the horizon featuring five games in seven days next week, there will be plenty of challenges awaiting this shorthanded squad.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.